Swaziland ranks among the more prosperous countries in Africa. Most of the high-level economic activity is in the hands of non-Africans, but ethnic Swazis are becoming more active. Small entrepreneurs are moving into middle management positions. Although 70% of Swazis live in rural areas, nearly every homestead has a wage earner. The past few years have seen wavering economic growth, which has been exacerbated by the economy's inability to create new jobs at the same rate that new job seekers enter the market. This is due largely in part to the country's population growth rate that strains the natural heritage and the country's ability to provide adequate social services, such as health care and education. Overgrazing, soil depletion, drought, and floods are persistent problems.
Nearly 60% of Swazi territory is held by the Crown in trust of the Swazi nation. The balance is privately owned, much of it by foreigners. The questions of land use and ownership remains a very sensitive one. For Swazis living on rural homesteads, the principal occupation is either subsistence farming or livestock herding. Culturally, cattle are important symbols of wealth and status, but they are being used increasingly for milk, meat, and profit.
Swaziland enjoys well-developed road links with South Africa. It also has railroads running east to west and north to south. The older east-west link, called the Goba line, makes it possible to export bulk goods from Swaziland through the Port of Maputo in Mozambique. Until recently, most of Swaziland's imports were shipped through this port. Conflict in Mozambique in the 1980s diverted many Swazi exports to ports in South Africa. A north-south rail link, completed in 1986, provides a connection between the Eastern Transvaal rail network and the South African ports of Richard's Bay and Durban.
The sugar industry, based solely on irrigated cane, is Swaziland's leading export earner and private-sector employer. Soft drink concentrate (a U.S. investment) is the country's largest export earner, followed by wood pulp and lumber from cultivated pine forests. Pineapple, citrus fruit, and cotton are other important agricultural exports.
Swaziland mines coal and diamonds for export. There also is a quarry industry for domestic consumption. Mining contributes about 1.8% of Swaziland's GDP each year but has been declining in importance in recent years.
Recently, a number of industrial firms have located at the industrial estate at Matsapha near Manzini. In addition to processed agricultural and forestry products, the fast-growing industrial sector at Matsapha also produces garments, textiles, and a variety of light manufactured products. The Swaziland Industrial Development Company (SIDC) and the Swaziland Investment Promotion Authority (SIPA) have assisted in bringing many of these industries to the country. Government programs encourage Swazi entrepreneurs to run small and medium-sized firms. Tourism also is important, attracting more than 424,000 visitors annually (mostly from Europe and South Africa).
From the mid-1980s foreign investment in the manufacturing sector boosted economic growth rates significantly. Since mid-1985, the depreciated value of the currency has increased the competitiveness of Swazi exports and moderated the growth of imports, generating trade surpluses. During the 1990s, the country often ran small trade deficits. South Africa and the European Union are major customers for Swazi exports. The United States is a significant market for Swazi sugar, a market that would presumably extend to textiles should Swaziland become a beneficiary of the African Growth Opportunity Act.
Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, and the Republic of South Africa form the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), where import duties apply uniformly to member countries. Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa also are members of the Common Monetary Area (CMA) in which repatriation and unrestricted funds are permitted. Swaziland issues its own currency, the lilangeni (plural: emalangeni), which is at par with the South African rand.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $4.8 billion (2002 est.), $4.2 billion (1999 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 1.6% (2002 est.), 3.1% (1999 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $4,400 (2002 est.), $4,200 (1999 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 17% (2001 est.), 10% (1997 est.)
industry: 44% (2001 est.), 48% (1997 est.)
services: 39% (2001 est.), 42% (1997 est.)
Population below poverty line: 40% (1995)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1%
highest 10%: 50.2% (1995)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 11.8% (2002 est.), 6% (1999 est.)
Labor force: 383,200 (2000)
Labor force - by occupation: private sector about 70%, public sector about 30%
Unemployment rate: 34% (2000 est.), 22% (1995 est.)
revenues: $448 million (FY01/02), $400 million (FY96/97)
expenditures: $506.9 million, including capital expenditures of $147 million (FY01/02), $450 million, including capital expenditures of $115 million (FY96/97)
Industries: mining (coal and asbestos), wood pulp, sugar, soft drink concentrates, textile and apparel
Industrial production growth rate: 3.7% (FY95/96)
Electricity - production: 348.3 million kWh (2001), 420 million kWh (1998)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 58% (2001), 48.81% (1998)
hydro: 42% (2001), 51.19% (1998)
nuclear: 0% (2001, 1998)
other: 0% (2001,1998)
Electricity - consumption: 962.9 million kWh (2001), 1.078 billion kWh (1998)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2001, 1998)
Electricity - imports:
639 million kWh (2001), 687 million kWh (1998)
note: imports about 60% of its electricity from South Africa (1998)
Exports: $820 million f.o.b. (2002 est.), $825 million (f.o.b., 1999)
Exports - commodities: soft drink concentrates, sugar, wood pulp, cotton yarn, refrigerators, citrus and canned fruit
Exports - partners: South Africa 72%, EU 14.2%, Mozambique 3.7%, US 3.5%, UK (1999), South Africa 74%, EU 12%, Mozambique 5%, US, North Korea (1997)
Imports: $938 million f.o.b. (2002), $1.05 billion (f.o.b., 1999)
Imports - commodities: motor vehicles, machinery, transport equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals
Imports - partners: South Africa 88.8%, EU 5.6%, Japan 0.6%, Singapore 0.4% (1999), South Africa 83%, EU 6%, Japan, UK, Singapore (1997)
Debt - external: $320 million (2002 est.), $180 million (1999)
Economic aid - recipient: $104 million (2001), $55 million (1995)
Currency: 1 lilangeni (E) = 100 cents
Exchange rates: emalangeni (E) per US$1 - 10.5407 (2002), 8.6092 (2001), 6.9398 (2000), 6.1087 (1999), 5.4807 (1998), 4.6032 (1997), 4.2706 (1996), 3.6266 (1995); note - the Swazi lilangeni is at par with the South African rand
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March